April 22, 2021

Stand-ups Reimagined for Digital Collaboration

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A stand-up is a short team meeting done at regular intervals – typically either daily or weekly – to provide transparency of the team’s activity. The ritual originated in agile software development but can be applied to just about any work context. 

Beyond having a project management function, a stand-up is also a chance for everyone on the team to speak, as well as practice team building

Typically, the session is time-boxed to 15 minutes or so and is done in real-time, face-to-face in the office with a small team of a dozen or less. Each team member speaks individually and reports on an agreed set of criteria. For instance, a common set of questions for everyone to address is:
- What you did yesterday
- What you’re doing today
- What impediments prevent you from moving forward

In remote contexts, there is more flexibility to extend the approach. Here at MURAL, we’ve been experimenting with several ways to enhance normal standups. Our intent is twofold.

First, we wanted to compress the time it takes to make the activities of a large, diverse group transparent. To do this we organized the stand-up around departments, not individuals. While each team member has a unique color, the main categorization is by function. 

Using the bullseye diagram, we also prioritize tasks and initiatives that the team has going on. The closer to the center, the higher priority. The stand-up focuses on the activities in the center ring for efficiency. The session facilitator goes around to each of the “pie slices” in the diagram rather than person-by-person. 

Time permitting, the team can share and discuss tasks in the outer rings. But at a minimum, everyone knows the most important things going on across departments from the bullseye. 

Second, we wanted to introduce playful and fun elements to the stand-up practice. The stand-up begins with a quick check-in with one of our most popular warm-ups: Pick Your Cat. By way of cat characters, team members can indicate how they are feeling that day. A short discussion about any patterns that might emerge (e.g. a lot of people on “Climbing the Walls” today) gets the group talking.

Using MURAL for a stand-up not only lets a team collaborate better remotely, but it also makes the activity fun and engaging. We’ll regularly add comments and notes as the stand-up session happens, including links to important resources.

 

🚀 PRO TIP: Use the LUMA Institute's Ultimate Team Stand-Up template to quickly get your meetings on track and efficient. 


Instructions

PREP

Before you get started, prepare the canvas. Start by determining the categories that will organize the team's input on the bullseye in STEP 2. For instance, you can label each "pie slice" as a department (e.g., marketing, sales, etc.). Or, each slice could represent a different aspect of the product or platform (security, Q&A, frontend, backend, etc.). You can also devise your own way of categorizing the work the team does. 

Use this bullseye diagram to quickly see what important topics your team is working on.



STEP 1

Check-in by adding your name to a colored sticky note. Then, drag your name to the cat that represents how you feel in the moment. Have a brief discussion about the responses from the team. 

Our furry coworkers steal the show in this warmup.


STEP 2

Indicate the top activities you're working on for the day or week using your colored sticky note. Then, prioritize the activities by moving them closer to the center (= high priority) or further away on the outer ring (= lower priority). You're allowed to put only ONE sticky note in the center in order to force a prioritization of the most important thing you are working on.

Click on the image above to see the LUMA Institute's Ultimate Stand-up template in action.

 


 

Take a screenshot zoomed in on the center circle and post it in the team communication channel to remind everyone of the priority activities across the group.

We’ve seen the bullseye approach, in general, to be a very efficient way to gather input across a team and provide transparency across a group. In one case, for instance, we saw a team at a large company reduce meeting time dramatically. Previously, a read-out of information from everyone on the team took about three hours. Using a bullseye, they brought that down to about 15 minutes and had better visibility of information as well.  

Here at MURAL, we’ve been able to do stand-ups with 20+ people in less than 30 minutes, with plenty of time to spare for warm-ups and friendly banter. Beyond the efficiency, we also see the chance to work together visually in a shared canvas as part of our ongoing culture-building activities: people are able to connect with each other on a human level even though we’re all distributed.


Final Thoughts

Each organization and each team is unique. And building a culture of collaboration doesn't happen all at once. A yearly retreat with an agenda full of trust-falls won't get you there. Instead, you have to find your sweet spot in an ongoing way with simple, small experiments.

The pandemic heightened our sense of awareness of HOW we collaborate together.  As companies consider reopening offices, we'll be once again confronted with a change in our mode of operation. Now is the time to apply a digital-first mindset to your team collaboration and learn how to best function together.

This stand-up approach came out of our curiosity to explore and expand team collaboration. We encourage you to imagine your own ways of working and explore new ways of working. If you do, please share them with us. We’re here to learn together with you.



Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach is MURAL's Chief Evangelist. A noted author, speaker, and instructor in customer experience, experience design, digital transformation, and strategy, Jim’s book, The Jobs To Be Done Playbook, offers techniques organizations can follow to turn market insight into action.

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